Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor lets his play do the talking

By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 12:18 AM

BLACKSBURG, VA. - Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor is a master of improvisation on the field, but his electrifying play is in stark contrast to his mild-mannered ways off it.

So it should come as no surprise that the senior didn't even know he wasn't named one of the 16 semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to college football's top quarterback, until a reporter told him Tuesday. In typical fashion, he shrugged it off.

"It's just motivation," said Taylor, who ranks fourth in the country in passing efficiency and sixth nationally in rushing yards among quarterbacks. "I don't worry about the awards and stuff like that. I can just go out there and control the things I can control, and that's going out there and being the best player on the field each week."

Recently, Taylor has lived up to those lofty standards. He hasn't thrown an interception since the first quarter of Virginia Tech's victory over North Carolina State on Oct. 2 - a game in which he ran for 121 yards and threw three touchdown passes, including a game-winning strike late in the fourth quarter.

In fact, since that one mistake Taylor has completed 64 percent of his passes, thrown for 851 yards and scored 13 total touchdowns without a turnover. Statistically, this amounts to the best four-game stretch of Taylor's career.

It even prompted Duke Coach David Cutcliffe, who tutored Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, to call Taylor "the best dual-threat quarterback in the country" while comparing him favorably to Auburn's Cam Newton after the Hokies defeated the Blue Devils, 44-7, on Oct. 23.

"Anytime we need a play, he makes it without even being asked," Hokies running back Darren Evans said. "He's definitely the leader of this team, of this offense."

Part of Taylor's improved play has to do with the confidence the coaching staff has in him. Since the Hokies began the season 0-2, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring has thrust more responsibility onto Taylor's shoulders, allowing him to audible at the line of scrimmage more frequently.

As a result, the Hokies have scored 40 or more points in four straight games for the first time since the beginning of Michael Vick's redshirt sophomore season in 2000.

Taylor "knows what's going on, so you trust him with changing plays, changing routes," Coach Frank Beamer said. "I just think he's a tremendous quarterback."

Other Taylor is ailing

Linebacker Bruce Taylor revealed over the weekend that he's still feeling the effects of a high-ankle sprain he suffered against Duke. Taylor went through extensive rehab during the Hokies' bye week, but said the injury has affected his lateral movement.

"It's just real weak trying to get the tendons re-tightened and strengthened. It's been rolling a lot lately," Taylor said Sunday. He leads Virginia Tech in tackles this season.

Both Beamer and defensive coordinator Bud Foster said this week they think Taylor will be in the lineup Thursday night against Georgia Tech, but cautioned that being limited physically is not a recipe for success against the Yellow Jackets' option attack.

If Taylor can't play, Oakton native Jack Tyler, a 2008 All-Met from Oakton High, will take over at middle linebacker. The redshirt freshman has drawn praise from coaches this year for his ability to stop the run.

"I feel good about Jack Tyler," Foster said. "He's got a nose for the football and this is a game where I think Jack could play very, very well in."

Graduating and winning

The NCAA recently released graduation-rate data for the freshman class of 2003, and Virginia Tech had the second-highest rate of any BCS team currently ranked in the AP top 25. Only Stanford had more of its players graduate. The Hokies were tied for 18th nationally with a graduation rate of 79 percent.

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